Sullivan County Commissioner candidate Donna Iannone (above, left), Wyalusing Township Supervisor Marvin Meteer (above, right), COGENT co-founder Emily Krafjack of Mehoopany (below, left), and Kim Barnes (below, right) of the NTRPDC are four of five civic and organization leaders from the Endless Mountains to win appointments to 12 work groups associated with a new Pipeline Taskforce announced in Harrisburg this week. Not pictured is Bradford County Conservation District director Cathy Yeakel.
In addition to 48 individuals appointed by PA Gov. Tom Wolf this week to work on the new Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce, it was noted that 12 work groups had been set up that would involve another 101 people from various backgrounds who have dealt extensively with natural gas and oil drilling across the state.
The work groups are Agriculture; Conservation and Natural Resources; County Government; Emergency Preparedness; Environmental Protection; Historic, Cultural and Tribal; Local Government; Natural Gas End Use; Pipeline Safety and Integrity; Public Participation; Siting and Routing; and Workforce and Economic Development.
As opposed to drilling, which is confined primarily to the western and northern portions of the state, gas and oil pipelines will eventually crisscross most of the Commonwealth just as our highways do. Therefore, it is not a surprise to see representation from numerous counties. The majority of representation on both the Taskforce and the among the work groups, however, is from the southern tier of Pennsylvania.
Exceptions include Sullivan County Commissioner candidate Donna Iannone; C.O.G.E.N.T. co-founder Emily Krafjack of Wyoming County; Bradford County Conservation District director Cathy Yeakel; Kim Barnes of the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission (NTRPDC); and Wyalusing Township Supervisor Marvin Meteer of Bradford County. Meteer will chair the Local Government work group and represent Local Government on the primary Taskforce.
“When it was announced that a task force was being created, I thought we needed to have representation on it for this part of the commonwealth,” Meteer explained. Membership was decided through an application process, so Meteer, like hundreds of others, downloaded the application and built a resume to accompany it. On June 30, those selected received emails notifying them that they had been accepted.
The Local Government Workgroup is tasked with identifying issues important issues before, during, and after pipeline infrastructure development as they pertain to local governments across the Commonwealth. The group will also identify best practices in engaging and communicating with local governments as part of that process, Meteer noted.
“My main goal is to make sure that our rural area has a voice in the overall process,” said Barnes, adding that NTRPDC has safety and distribution concerns associated with pipeline construction that Barnes hopes to address as a work group member.
“This would be a start. We need a voice,” Iannone concurred. “We’re a big region with a small population, and they don’t take us seriously. We are the ones that deal with it on a daily basis.“ While the majority of meetings will be held in Harrisburg, Iannone hopes to bring her work group to the Endless Mountains to see the day-to-day impact first-hand.
There are no work group members specifically from Susquehanna County, one of the most drilled counties in the state and a point from where many new pipelines and gathering lines originate. There are also very few gathering operators included on the Taskforce or in work groups, which worries Krafjack, who has been involved on pipeline safety issues since about 2009.
With more than 25,000 miles of gathering lines yet to be laid, she noted, “It concerns me that the absence of many gathering line operators, their input and their lack of participation will translate into lack of ownership in the recommended best practices. That may result in a lack of improvement here on the ground in the gathering fields.”
Nonetheless, Kraftjack stated, “I’m delighted to be selected for the Pipeline Safety and Integrity Workgroup. I do think it is a good fit reflecting on the work that I and C.O.G.E.N.T. has done over the years.”
According to the July 7 press release from the governor’s office, the task force will be informed by the 101 work group members, “who will focus on such issues as pipeline safety and integrity, siting and routing, environmental protection, conservation, agriculture, emergency preparedness, natural gas end use, county government, local government, public participation, workforce and economic development, and historical, cultural and tribal issues.”
“The information developed by the work groups will be reported to the Task Force for additional discussion, consideration, and assimilation in to the final report to the Governor,” Meteer related.
When asked of his anticipation as a Taskforce members, Meteer stated, “It is my hope that the Task Force will develop meaningful guidelines for pipelines in the commonwealth that will assure the residents that pipelines are being and will be built with the best practices of the industry in mind.”
As to the how the input of work group members to the Taskforce, Krafjack added,
“I’m hoping the task force will accomplish creating a good set of best practices that will become common place in the gathering fields. Our region is largely a Class 1 Area with very little applicable safety regulations as compared to similarly pressured and sized transmission pipelines elsewhere.”
“I hope that they pay attention to our area and that they are making rules that are realistic and that we can live with,” Iannone said of the Taskforce. “We are central to what is going on and need to assure our citizens that this is being done responsibly.”
“I am hoping that we can add some value to the process and end up with some recommendations that ultimately benefit our region,” Barnes remarked.
The primary Taskforce will be chaired by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley. To see the list of Taskforce members, click on http://www.endlessmtnlifestyles.com/?p=4300.